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Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Juliet McGuire

Juliet McGuire: Motoring Media

Juliet McGuire-65Juliet McGuire is a motoring journalist, presenter, and voice over artist. Having been in the industry for 12 years, she has worked with a number of influential brands and titles such as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Women's Health, and CAR magazine to name but a few. Apart from being a presenter for Ignition TV and cars.co.za, she also has her own YouTube channel and website. She also contributes to Gumtree Auto and has a motoring show on Cape Talk with John Maytham every second Monday.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

After completing my honours in journalism at the University of Stellenbosch, I joined the CAR magazine team as a terrified and inexperienced intern. Little did I know that this would be the start of the greatest career I couldn’t have even dreamed of. I was always interested in cars, but it was an ex-boyfriend who really ignited the passion. He still cannot believe that this is the job I get to do. The jealousy is real!

I spent seven years at CAR magazine and as much as I loved it and learnt more than I could have wished for, I was always considered junior. Women on Wheels came knocking at my door and offered me an opportunity I could not pass up on. I became editor of the annual magazine as well as the website about a year after joining the company and remained with them for four years. Again, the learning experience was invaluable. I eventually built up the courage to venture out on my own and start my own website. It was the greatest decision I ever made. I live my dream job, travel the world and this beautiful country and spend time with incredible people.

How did you get into the motoring journalist industry?

As mentioned, I started my career at CAR magazine as an intern. It was before I started my journalism degree, however, that I decided it was something I wanted to do. I just never realised how much I would actually enjoy it. After my four-week internship ended, I refused point blank to leave. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Have you experienced any challenges in this male dominated industry? 

Almost on a daily basis! It has gotten better as my confidence has grown, but there have certainly been times when I wanted to just throw in the towel. It can be quite difficult to be taken seriously in this industry as a woman and so you have to work almost 10 times harder than what a man would have to. There have not only been moments of sexism, but far too often, the sexual misconduct of many men within the industry has been a real challenge. I have taken a lot of it on the chin, but there have been moments where it has been too shocking to ignore. It can make for a very uncomfortable working environment. Thankfully, most of the men in this industry are wonderful.

What advice would you give a woman wanting to pursue a career in this industry?

Develop a thick skin and don’t take things too seriously. But at the same time, do not stand for anything other than total respect. It will be tough, but it will be worth it. 


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Nafisa Akabor

Nafisa Akabor: Freelance Technology Journalist

Nafisa Akabor profile picNafisa Akabor is a freelance technology journalist who has been covering business and consumer tech for 12 years. She spends most of her days testing new phones and gadgets, and is passionate about startups, electric cars and mobile payments. She contributes to the Mail & Guardian, City Press, TechCentral, Forbes Africa and Sawubona, to name a few. Her work appears in newspapers, magazines, online, radio, podcasts and the occasional video.

She has also served as a judge at various hackathons, apps awards and currently judges the Cars.co.za Consumer Awards. Nafisa also has a ten-year-old tech blog called Wired to the Web that gets updated when she has free time between her professional writing gigs.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

I was born in Durban and I’m the second child in a family of four daughters. I’ve always been passionate about technology from the time I was a kid. I used to love setting up our new PCs and doubled up as the family tech support. Coming from a family of girls, my dad was over-protective, so instead of going out with my friends, I spent my free time on the internet in the late 90s. Everything I learnt about computers is self-taught.

I wanted to study Information Technology but my dad at the time said it wasn’t a career suitable for a muslim woman, so I studied Travel and Tourism. The reason I bring this up is not because it bothers me anymore, in fact, if it wasn’t for this, I don’t think I would have ended up in my dream job.

I worked for a large tour operator in Durban after my studies, but I left for the UK when I got married, on a working holiday visa (remember those?). After a stint in Cardiff, Wales, I returned to South Africa and relocated to Johannesburg, which which has been home to me since 2005.

I got a job at a travel website and it was here that I learnt more about the behind-the-scenes of the online world, taught myself html, and doubled up as web support, in addition to writing about travel.

I started writing about technology in my spare time for the now defunct Reporter.co.za and they nominated me for a citizen journalist award at the Telkom ICT Awards 2006. It was at this function that I was spotted by ITWeb, who offered me a full-time job writing for their new tech and blogging website. I started my career in technology journalism purely by being at the right place, at the right time.

I’ve now been writing and blogging about tech for 12 years. I love what I do, and the opportunities it has afforded me thus far, like judging various app or car awards. The bonus – and something I never take for granted – is the travel opportunities of being able to attend tech conferences and launches internationally. I also appear on the TechCentral podcast and occasionally on radio to speak about new tech.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Heloise Engelbrecht

Heloise Engelbrecht - Director and Founder of Yosef Dream Foundation

Heloise EngelbrechtHeloise is the Director and Founder of Yosef Dream Foundation, an NPC which was registered in 2017. Yosef Dream Foundation is a Non-Profit entity with it's motto-Dare to Dream. Core to its vision is Caring, Sharing Uplifting and Empowering.

She has a certificate in Human Resource Management and has been working since the age of 17 in various sectors.

She wishes to use the NPC as a platform to instil skills, values and dignity in underprivileged communities. Her most valued accomplishment is being a mother and an inspiration to her two children.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

I am a 36-year-old single mom with two children. I was born in Elsies River, Cape Town. As a child I was raised in my grandma's house with my mom, and grandma playing a vital role in my upbringing. We did not have much, but we had family. All around in the community I saw many single parent households or children being raised by their grandparents. So, this was a community in distress with families struggling financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually. So, the desire to help, to make a change, to bring hope to the hopeless was ignited in the midst of a dysfunctional environment.

In 2010 after a motor vehicle accident the doctors told me I would now have to live my life as a quadriplegic. At the age of 27, with a 3-year old boy and an 8-month old daughter; this was the most devastating news. My children became my reason for living and fighting. Little did I know that it would be a two-year medical, emotional and spiritual battle for my life.

I had two choices, to give up or to fight. I chose the latter and have grown from strength to strength.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Marce Underwood

Marcè Underwood: Singer/Songwriter for Project Escape

Marce UnderwoodMarcè Underwood is a classically trained singer, poet and businesswoman from Cape Town. She leverages off her near 10 years of combining music, education and business to promote and sustain herself in the South African music industry.

After matriculating at Stellenberg High School in 2006, Marcè graduated with an honours qualification and diplomas at University of Cape Town, Shaw Academy and BHC School of Design. Her dissertations included - Opera music performance, Adult & Higher Education, Design, Digital Marketing and Music Education Curriculum Development. On the education front, she has trained and developed a variety of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds in finding fulfilling music careers and paths in the industry. Her outreach projects include preparing individuals for the workplace in the Hospitality industry.

Marcè has performed on many stages in South Africa and also in Cardiff, Wales. She has performed alongside artists such as Lira, MiCasa, Kyle Shepherd, Buddy Wells and other genres such as dance/soul-lounge music projects. She is passionate about raising her daughter, Scarlett, with the same values that she was brought up with; kindness, honesty and pursuing your innermost passions with drive, while also enjoying & learning from every experience.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

Leaving home at 17 to study and live independently were the beginnings of me having to put a plan together that combined music performance and business in a manner that is truly authentic and profitable. At the end of the day, I believe that you need to create that balance between developing your craft, using your creativity and giving back to those around you.

Was it easy breaking into the music industry?

It was not an easy one! There are many talented musicians out there who go unrecognized. In my opinion, we need to be schooled into the business side of the industry too. When we study music, and are fixated on our craft alone, we miss out on developing our signature brands - as an artist - which is key!

What advice would you give to aspiring Singers?


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Lynette Hundermark

Lynette Hundermark: Co-Founder & CEO of Useful And Beautiful

Lynette HundermarkAn established industry expert in the digital and mobile space in Africa, Lynette is recognised as one of the top 30 most influential women in SA digital marketing, a Regional Business Woman of the Year 2018 Finalist (run by the Business Women's Association of SA) and the 2018 Female Role Model in Tech National Winner (Southern African Startup Awards). She has also been recognised by Fast Company in 2018 as one of the most creative people in business. With over 20 years of experience in the tech, digital marketing and mobile solutions space, Lynette co-founded specialist mobile solutions consultancy Useful & Beautiful and has a passion for creating great customer experience that harness the power of mobile and digital to help businesses achieve their omnichannel goals.

Previous experiences include launching innovative & award-winning solutions for the initial versions of Ster-Kinekor, bidorbuy, Old Mutual, Sanlam, Hollard, News24, and General Electric apps. She also led mobile innovation units at Naspers for their eCommerce businesses which included Kalahari.com, 36Style and Media24 while starting off her career as an enterprise developer analyst in the UK with clients that included HSBC, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, G4s and Tesco. Lynette is a sought-after tech speaker and has spoken regularly at a variety of local and international tech conferences and is frequently quoted in publications throughout Africa.

She also served on the judging panel for the EduTech Africa, AfricaCom and World Retail awards, West Africa Mobile Awards and Mobile Marketing Association. She also serves on various advisory boards globally.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

I am one of those original geek girls who got into the STEM space long before it was regarded as being cool :-). I was a hands-on coder for about 10 years. I started coding at school with Logo, actually then, Visual Basic, Turbo Pascal (yes, I’m that old). I completed my BSc Honours degree in Computer Science and Psychology where I graduated Cum Laude and since then have attained various technology certifications in business analysis, design, Microsoft development technologies and Java. I was .Net certified when .Net was just released in the early 2000s. I started off my career as an enterprise programmer analyst for 8 years in the UK with clients that included HSBC, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, G4s and Tesco.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Benji Coetzee

Benji Coetzee - Founder and CEO of EmptyTrips

Benji CoetzeeBenji is part of Africa’s top (award-winning) triple-bottom line evangelist start-up. www.emptytrips.com. An impact capitalist, Benji leverages tech, smart strategy and the shared economy thinking in an effort to save our planet & make profits.

After a decade in top-tier consulting and banking at firms like The Boston Consulting Group and HSBC, Benji decided to turn her attention to changing the world and founded EmptyTrips with Herman. The human whirlwind's focus is now on making EmptyTrips the largest provider of logistics services, where her double Masters (LLM & MPhil) and her Bachelor’s in Finance come in handy on a daily basis. 

Benji has been recognised by many within a short period of time, accolades include being a Forbes Africa Tech Disruptor 2018, Top50 Women in Tech - Entrepreneur Mag 2018, Frost&Sullivan On-Demand Logistics Innovation Winner 2018, AWIEF Top5 African Women Tech Entrepreneur 2018, Top5 Global Impact Challengers - SingularityU Africa 2017, Railtech Pioneer - Engineering Weekly, Insuretech TrailBlazer - DC Velocity (2018), Top50 Women in Tech - Innov8tive (2018), SA Innovation Winner - 2017, Top 30 Startup World Cup 2018, and most recently the Top60 Women Lead Tech Companies by Forbes. With her team, dominated by like-minded women, they have taken on a fight in a male-dominated, legacy-ridden industry to bring change, growth and environmental impact. EmptyTrips proudly addressed four of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, but here is her story over the past aggressive 2 years...

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

After 10 years of top-tier consulting and financial services, I ventured into full time entrepreneurship with the aim to disrupt the African business status-quo. I hold Two masters degrees. I am currently scaling EmptyTrips, a logi-fintech high growth venture, (amongst others).

Please tell us a little more about how your company came about.

Approximately two years ago, I was driving along the N3 highway from Durban passing empty trucks and rail wagons along route. This got me talking to my partner (original co-founder), and thinking of numerous consulting clients complained about expensive transport costs eating into profit margins, yet there is oversupply given the empties?

Applying simple supply-demand economic theory, it simply didn’t make sense; excess supply leads to lower prices, not higher / expensive. I assumed better-matched demand and supply would lead to a lower equilibrium cost for transport… Aside from cost implications – and being a tree-hugger, the excessive emissions, road congestion and safety hazards caused by trucks in general, never-mind empty ones, was enough for me to try find a solution.

I decided that something needed to be done, a smart market for transport was needed to reduce the waste, the cost of transport and enable better utilisation of expensive assets. Technology held the key.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Itumeleng Sekhu

Itumeleng Sekhu - Founder of the Itumeleng Sekhu Foundation

Itumeleng SekhuItumeleng Sekhu is the Founder and Managing Director of the Itumeleng Sekhu Foundation and an author of a book titled What Do You See? She graduated from the University of Johannesburg where she completed a BA in Audiovisual Communications, majoring in Communications, Psychology and Media Studies sponsored by the Dis-chem Foundation.

Whilst at varsity, she became an intern for ONE Gospel Channel and Friends Like These on SABC 1. In the same year she worked as a content producer for The Sound Revival Show and The Scared Space on Metro FM. She was also a Project Manager for the Sbusiso Leope Education Foundation where hundreds of students were assisted with bursaries to go to tertiary. As a project manager, she was in charge of organizing seminars in South Africa which brought together esteemed entrepreneurs.

In 2014, she became a researcher for the SABC 1 TV show Making Moves at Bonngoe TV. She also contributed to many other organizations, a few being, Map Christ as a Communications Manager and a Brand Ambassador for Dove Unilever. She is also a Social Media Manager for I Do Magazine. She has currently launched her new venture of manufacturing candles. She says she lives to enlighten people’s lives and assist them in discovering their inner lights through these candles to ensure that people reach their full potential. She got burnt from a candle when she was 11 months old and her right hand as well as four fingers on her left hand is amputated. She however, did not allow that to dim her light and she can humbly state that she is fulfilling her purpose in the media industry in both television as well as radio for the past 6 years. She has one finger which is her thumb but yet she can type 35 words per minute and she can drive herself anywhere in the world.

What do you see?
is a gripping autobiography and testimony of the indomitable human spirit. This story is an illustration of her life and her ability to be at the odds that were so heavily stacked against her...starting with the fire that nearly destroyed her life. The chapters of the book take us on an emotional journey, firstly through the physical pain, after the fire and then through the rollercoaster ride of the pain she endured as a young girl who was rejected and ridiculed because she was different. She keeps the story real by telling it like it is and it is this authenticity, so wittily tinged with traces of humour, that captures the reader’s attention. What do you see? shows how her sheer determination and drive to not just survive but to live her life as God intended and sustained through the highs and lows. In this book she explains how she moved from anger and frustration to a close relationship with God.

The book brings forth leadership skills, self motivation and encouragement, healing of inner wounds in all individuals, purpose driven life, boosts self esteem, confidence, a desire to succeed, self introspection, ambition and passion for life.

Itumeleng’s life is an instant example of how one can come from a negative impact to changing one's life to success and ultimately reaching their full potential.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Pontsho Manzi

Pontsho Manzi - CEO: Fabulous Woman

Pontsho ManziPontsho Manzi is is the founding editor and publisher of Fabulous Woman magazine and author of arguably the first South African black female created and owned annual inspirational diary for women called Diary for Fabulous You. Pontsho is passionate about women empowerment, youth development and leadership and strated non-profit initiatives like Fabulous Girls Foundation and FabWoman Awards. “I realised that no awards exist that recognise the ethical values embodied in my campaign for women upliftment and empowerment, and women unity,” she explains and so she launched the Fabulous Woman Awards in 2013 to recognise and celebrate the foundational principles of ethical womanhood. These were the first awards in South Africa to recognise both girls and women in an effort to engender the spirit of sisterhood and cross generational bonding for all women of South Africa. As accomplished business owner, author, speaker, image consultant and coach, Pontsho embodies what the Fabulous Women Awards stand for.

She is the executive chairman and CEO of Botlhokwa Group; a holding company for three subsidiary companies called Recrutrain, FabImage and Bonisa Media. Recrutrain is an HR consulting and training company started in 2004 to deliver innovative staffing and training solutions to both private and public sector organisations in South Africa and the SADC region. The next addition to her business grew from identifying a need for image consulting as candidates kept asking for advice on self-image and image management. Pontsho qualified as an image consultant with The Image Academy of South Africa (A Member of the Institute for Colour and Image Consultants for Men and Women in California, USA) in 2006 before launching FabImage in 2007. This independent company offers image consulting services to companies and individuals in South Africa and the SADC region.

She has delivered talks in companies such as GIBS Business School, MTN, Multichoice, HPCSA, Old Mutual, SASRIA, Kumalo Green, Sasol, MAN, Transnet, Department of Labour, Vodacom, CellC etc. In 2011 she created and launched an annual inspirational diary for women called Dairy for Fabulous You through her newly formed publishing company called Bonisa Media. While working on the sequel to the diary, the feedback she received from women was overwhelmingly in support of a more frequent interaction or publication with the women to inspire women. And so Fabulous Woman Magazine was launched in 2012. The magazine links back to Pontsho’s original goal - to encourage dialogue amongst women and strive for a cause that is very close to her heart: women empowerment, women’s unity and the forging of an authentic sisterhood that encompasses beautiful clothes, confidence, self-esteem and mutual empowerment without competition or envy.

Pontsho has been awarded the 2014 DTI South African Premier Business Award, Young Entrepreneur Award and Play Your Part Award as well as the 2014 Women for Africa Awards: International Media Woman Category. In 2011, she was the Winner of Anne Dreyer Rising Star Award and in 2012 she was nominated as one of the South African Most Influential Women and the Shoprite Woman of the year Award 2012 -Heroine Category. She has been featured on media shows like SABC 3, ETV, CNBC Africa, Good Morning Africa, SAfm, Radio 2000, Kaya FM and in publications local and abroad. She sits on the board of VK Foundation and Young Women in Business Forum.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Eva Arissani

Eva Arissani - Director: Transcentral (Pty)Ltd

Eva Arissani XWOMOriginally from Libreville (Gabon), I had the fantastic opportunity to reside in many countries and got to experience different cultures. I did part of my basic education in France. At the age of 11, I flew back to Gabon where I started high school. When I got my High school diploma (Baccalauréat de l’enseignement général), I took off for South Africa where I undertook university studies. I was blessed to work as a Tutor for the Department of Modern European Languages -University of Pretoria, and thereafter as a French Assistant Lecturer. I fell in love with FLE (teaching French as a Foreign Language) and that naturally led me to teaching French as a foreign language and later on to translating and voice over. My objectives are to broaden my horizons as a linguist, transcend physical barriers and work as a translator, French voice over artist, inspirational/ motivational keynote speaker, facilitator, FLE Expert and expand as a leadership coach, a mentor and women’s and girl’s empowerment champion and as a young girl’s advocate.

I hold a Baccalaureus Artium Honores specialized in English, French, Translation and Interpretation, I am a Sworn Translator of the High Court of South Africa, an Expert in DELF/DALF (international French diplomas) and a trainer of trainers. I have facilitated many trainings at national and regional level. I attended a Course on public speaking (“Speak your way to success”), on keynote writing and motivational speaking that took place in Johannesburg in 2014 and was led by the one and only Les Brown (an American motivational speaker, author, radio DJ, former television host, and former politician). I am a Member of Golden Key International Honour Society in recognition of outstanding scholastic achievement. I started a blog and published a self-help book.

I am an Ambassador to Mireille Toulekima Global Leadership to South Africa (an organization based in Australia). I love her philosophy and I vouched to empower people and especially women and teenage girls to be the best they can be and tap into their true potential. The Mireille Toulekima Global Leadership organization was founded by the public figure and inspirational leader Mireille Toulekima. Its mission is to help people become the best that they can be, come out of the masses and stand in their own shining light. The Mireille Toulekima Global Leadership organization promotes authentic leadership across the world following the D.A.R.E (Decide Act Review Extend) Leadership System created by Mireille Toulekima. I see myself as a ‘multidimensional’ woman as I strive to pursue a professional career as a linguist expert but also as a leadership coach, a mentor, an inspirational / motivational speaker and as an advocate to empower people but most specifically young girls.

I am happily married and mom to 3 daughters.


Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Sibabalwe Sesmani

Sibabalwe Sesmani - Founder & Managing Director: Unorthodox PR and Media Group (Pty)Ltd

Sibabalwe SesmaneI am a 26 year old Xhosa female entrepreneur born and bred in East London, Eastern Cape. I attended the University of Johannesburg and completed my bachelor in Commerce in Economics and Econometrics. My working life started while still in university in my final year in September 2013, working as a marketer for Phillip Morris South Africa. The marketing bug since bit me as my following jobs were in a marketing role. In October 2014, I informally started my company and named it Unorthodox PR and Media Group, which wasn't registered till the following year in April. Before starting the company I had an urge to do more & be more and I was fortunate enough to secure my first client before my company was formally registered at CIPC. Since then we’ve won international awards for our clients, gone up against a listed company and we have been nominated for the continental Africa Youth Awards in 2017.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.

I have always been entrepreneurial since I was very young. I remember when I was 11 years old and I wanted to have a cellphone. My parents didn't understand who I would be chatting to so I made a deal with them. Should I be able to raise half of the amount of the mobile phone, they would then be obligated to give me the other half and purchase my cellphone. A few months passed of selling popcorn and junk food that my peers adored so much and I met my target. I then presented R10 notes and many coins to my parents and soon enough I had my Motorola T190 mobile. I love telling this story because it's an indication of the qualities I've always possessed which are resilience, goal orientated, great problem solving skills, negotiation skills and my people skills. Going on this journey has possibly been the hardest 4 years of my life as I've sacrificed, watching my peers ‘seemingly’ surpassed me when it comes to attaining material possession and having to grow up very quickly to now being able to relate to older generations. On the way I've encountered an excessive amount of misogyny and a realization and awareness of how hard it is to be young, black and female in business. With the hardships and obstacles I've also built an immense amount of confidence, a no nonsense taking attitude, an assertive, aggressive nature and I do not take no for an answer. By losing friends and so called ‘supportive family’ one truly realizes how strong and capable one is, and I can safely say that not much scares me or gets me down.

Please tell us a little more about your CSI Initiative.

The Women’s Youthpreneur Academy which is now called the ‘Unorthodox Black Women’s Youth Network (UBWYN) was born out of my frustration of how young black women had to face almost impossible obstacles just to even gain a client. Women are scared, doubtful and undervalue themselves when we have so much to offer and bring to the table. This initiative started in 2015 with small gatherings to discuss issues. The gatherings were not always consistent as it seemed to me that women spoke a lot, but there was no action. The name change to UBWYN was inspired by wanting to create an economy amongst women. When it comes to big projects often women are told to exchange sexual favors for clients and even potential meetings which lead to nowhere which is absolutely ridiculous! It then dawned on me that there are more women than men and Africa is a fairly young continent in terms of inhabitants, so why not have our own economy, work with each other and use our collective voices to be the change that we want. I'm not a mother yet, but I have a 9 year old niece that I adore so much and I want to instill in her what I now know and I want her to be unapologetically aggressive by getting what she wants.


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